Cal Killeen, former editor of The Daily News, dies

Cal Killeen

NEWBURYPORT — Calhoun J. “Cal” Killeen Jr., who worked as editor of The Daily News for more than 20 years, died Tuesday at the age of 67.

Killeen, who edited the newspaper from 1980-2002, left after it was sold and worked for the Seacoast Media Group in New Hampshire (2004-2010) before taking an editorial post in Princeton, New Jersey, in 2011.

Killeen was editor of the Packet Media Group, Manalapan, N.J., from 2011-2015. While in New Jersey, he had maintained his family residence in West Newbury.

He returned, and in recent months had been battling ill health.

“Cal was a good editor, and had us working as a team,” said Victor Tine, a retired newsman who worked under Killeen as city editor for 21 years before Killeen’s departure. “We became a better newspaper under his leadership. He was very reader oriented, and organized the paper so readers could navigate easily. Georgetown news was always in the same place, Amesbury news was easy to find, and things like that. He made it easy for readers.”

Tine credited Killeen with increasing readership in the 1990s even as the internet was becoming a significant competitor.

Merrily Buchs, a retired copy editor who worked under Killeen, said, “Cal was very knowledgeable, and always had good story ideas. Under his leadership, we grew in circulation to about 14,000 and had a large staff that provided a good news package.

“He could be fun to work with, and would come out to the news desk on deadline to help edit stories and be sure we met deadline. That was a good period for this newspaper.”

Jack Bradshaw, director of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority from 1973-78, and later a business leader with real-estate interests in the downtown, said Killeen was an honest, forthright journalist.

“I called him Cal Clean,” said Bradshaw, a retired executive who was recently honored for his work in the preservation of the downtown. “He was a truthful guy, and you would get a straight answer from him if an issue arose.”

Esther Sayer, a barber and business leader, said, “He was a great guy. He always had a smile and a story. He was the epitome of ‘when Irish eyes are smiling.’ 

“I’ve been here since 1981, and I would see him often downtown. A really good guy.”

Killeen’s tenure in the 1980s and ‘90s coincided with the rebirth of the city’s downtown business district and waterfront.

Historic buildings were revamped, the city created riverfront parks and extended the boardwalk.

Mary Carrier, who was mayor from 1998-99, called Killeen “a good newsman.

“He knew a lot of people in town, and his editorials got right to the point,” she said. “At candidate forums, he asked tough questions and he would speak his mind. We didn’t always agree, but I respected him as a professional.”

In the 1980s and ‘90s, the editorial staff of the publication grew to about 20, some of them moving on to larger news organizations.

“Cal was a good leader in the newsroom, and reporters who worked under him went on to the Boston Globe, New York Times, and many other publications,” said Jim Vaiknoras, a veteran photographer with The Daily News.

During Killeen’s tenure, Jeff Kinney was on the staff for a time. Kinney went on to become author of the successful “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” book series.

“Jeff would ask to do cartoons in the newspaper, but Cal said he didn’t see the need,” Vaiknoras recalled. “Cal laughed at that later, especially after the ‘Wimpy’ movie came out. Cal could acknowledge that he didn’t know what a talent he had had in the newsroom.”

He is survived by his wife, Wendy, and two daughters, Kelsey and Kara.

No services are planned. A spokeswoman at the Elliott, Woodworth and Rogers Funeral Home said a celebration of life will be held at a later date.

Dyke Hendrickson covers Newburyport. He can be reached at 978-961-3149, or at dhendrickson@newburyportnews.com.